Nearly 40 percent of mothers are now the family breadwinners

Updated 05 June 2013
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Nearly 40 percent of mothers are now the family breadwinners

In a trend accelerated by the recent recession and an increase in births to single mothers, nearly four in 10 families with children under the age of 18 are now headed by women who are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families, according to a report released yesterday by the Pew Research Center.
The report reveals a sweeping change in traditional gender roles and family life over a few short decades: The number of married mothers who out-earn their husbands has quadrupled, from 4 percent in 1960 to 15 percent in 2011. Single mothers, who are sole providers for their families, have tripled in number, from 7 to 25 percent in the same period.
“The decade of the 2000s witnessed the most rapid change in the percentage of married mothers earning more than their husbands of any decade since 1960,” said Philip Cohen, a University of Maryland sociologist who studies gender and family trends. “This reflects the larger job losses experienced by men at the beginning of the Great Recession. Also, some women decided to work more hours or seek better jobs in response to their husbands’ job loss, potential loss or declining wages.”
But the Pew Research report shows that Americans are decidedly ambivalent about mothers who work outside the home. Three-fourths of those surveyed say these mothers make raising children harder, and half worry that it’s bad for marriages.
About half of those surveyed felt it was better if mothers stayed home with young children. In contrast, 8 percent thought it was better if fathers did. But at the same time, the report notes that other polls have found that nearly 80 percent of Americans don’t think mothers should return to a 1950s traditional middle-class housewife role.
“The public is really of two minds,” said Kim Parker, one of the report’s authors. Traditional gender roles “are a deeply ingrained set of beliefs. It will take a while for those views to catch up with the reality of the way people are living today.”
While not perfect, it’s a lifestyle that has worked for Lisa Rohrer, who works at Georgetown University Law Center, and her husband and children. She became the family breadwinner when her husband, JJ, started his own business. He became the one to pick their two kids up from school, stay home when they were sick and take charge of house duties.
“For us, it has been ideal in many ways, because it has allowed JJ to pursue his dream of starting his own business and has allowed me to take jobs that require a lot of time and travel. I’m also glad our kids see an alternative way of handling careers, marriage and kids,” she said. “On the other hand, I have a lot more sympathy for dads in families where their wives are staying at home. There is a lot of pressure when you’re the main breadwinner.”
Although the trend toward mothers who pull in the biggest part of the family income has been on the rise as more women have become educated and entered the workforce, the recession has accelerated the trend, said Sarah Jane Glynn, an analyst with the Center for American Progress.
“Part of what’s happening is that more men have been getting laid off and are having difficulty finding work,” she said, noting that the number of married wives who are sole earners has increased since 2007. “And with the way the recovery’s played out, some men who lost their jobs wound up taking others that paid less.”
The Pew Research report found that married mothers are becoming increasingly better educated than their husbands: 61 percent of husbands and wives in dual-earner households have similar education levels, but 23 percent of the mothers are better educated than their spouses compared with 16 percent of fathers.
Women began graduating from college in greater numbers than men in 1985 and now earn more advanced degrees in many fields.
The stigma of women out-earning men appears to be waning, at least among those with college educations. About 30 percent of those surveyed think it’s better if men earn more, down from 40 percent in 1997. Those with a high school degree or less, however, are twice as likely as college-educated Americans to think men should earn more.
Heidi Parsons, 44, who owns her own recruiting firm in Alexandria, Virginia, said attitudes like that can make being a breadwinner a challenge in a relationship.
“My husband is a massage therapist. The disparity in income is hard for him. I don’t care. I signed up for it. I knew that going in, and it’s never bothered me,” she said. “But it’s hard, because it’s hard for him. What I like to look at is how it was nice that he was home for two years when the kids were little. That’s a contribution there that goes unrecognized on the dad’s side.”
Cohen said the trend toward breadwinning mothers can be disconcerting because it upends the status quo.
“Mothers have historically been responsible for the majority of child care and rearing, and single motherhood represents an extension of that role in a way that does not challenge traditional gender norms,” he said.
Single mother breadwinners are at a severe disadvantage, the report found.
Compared with their married peers, they earn an average of $ 23,000 and are more likely to be younger, black or Hispanic and have less education than a college degree.
“The makeup of single mothers has changed dramatically,” said Wendy Wang, one of the report’s authors. “In 1960, the vast majority of single mothers were divorced, separated or widowed. Only 4 percent were never married. But now, it’s 44 percent.” Now, 40 percent of all births are to single mothers, she added.
Julie Guyot-Diangone, 42, a divorced, breadwinning mother of two who works on Capitol Hill, earned a Ph.D in social work and specializes in orphan and refugee displacement. But since both her parents died a few months ago, she has no one to help her take care of her children, much less buy the groceries, cook or do laundry.
“I used to think, when looking for employment, I would look at my area of expertise. But those aren’t necessarily 9-to-5 jobs,” she said. “I find that I’m looking for work hours. Flex time. Teleworking. I’m looking for that, as a priority.”
Marcia Greco, 57, who works in Fairfax, Virginia, had no choice about becoming her family’s breadwinner when her husband was laid off nearly 20 years ago. Her husband took care of their two children and went to school at night. He felt isolated. Sometimes, people thought of them as a curiosity. Despite that, and despite the unease with mother breadwinners that Pew Research report found, the situation worked for them. The two just celebrated their 30th anniversary.
“We showed our kids that anyone can be a nurturer or go out and be a primary breadwinner,” she said. “Your gender doesn’t matter.”


China dog meat fest opens as South Korea goes the other way

Updated 22 June 2018
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China dog meat fest opens as South Korea goes the other way

  • The annual Yulin dog meat celebration opened without a hitch on Thursday
  • Eating dog to mark the summer solstice is a tradition in China’s Guangxi region

YULIN, China: As South Korea moves closer to banning dog meat, diners tuck into bowls of stewed canine in southern China, where activists are rethinking their tactics to counter a notorious festival that butchers thousands of dogs.
The annual Yulin dog meat celebration opened without a hitch on Thursday, a day after a South Korean court announced it had ruled that the slaughtering of dogs for meat was illegal.
Activists say the ruling could pave the way for the outlawing of dog meat consumption in South Korea, but there is less progress in China where advocates fear their tactics have been counterproductive.
Eating dog to mark the summer solstice is a tradition in China’s Guangxi region, where the festival has been held since 2009 to mark the occasion in the town of Yulin.
Despite rumors last year that Yulin authorities would ban dog meat sales altogether, many restaurants advertised the controversial offering this week with the veiled moniker of “fragrant meat.”
Carcasses were on display for purchase in the city’s open-air markets — though there were fewer of them than in previous years, locals said.
The Dongkou wet market downtown bustled with shoppers meandering past piles of dogs laid out atop butcher stalls for them to inspect. Others hung from hooks, their faces locked in a rigid grimace.
Market workers pulled in cartfuls of dead dogs while sweaty men blow-torched the fresher carcasses to remove any remaining fur. On the street, a man transported two live mutts in a cage on the back of his scooter.
As police patrolled outside the market premises, one woman bought a full dog for 662 yuan ($102), saying she would eat it with her family to celebrate the summer solstice.
“It’s very tasty,” another local surnamed Chen said, insisting “they’re all strays — strays and pets are different.”
Chen did not consider it cruel to consume the meat during what the Chinese zodiac system deems the Year of the Dog, quipping: “don’t you eat chicken in the year of the rooster, and pork in the year of the pig?”
But vendors were more discreet than usual.
They cooked in narrow alleys or inside their restaurants instead of preparing dog dishes in front of patrons, ushering diners inside and not serving outdoors.
Thousands of dogs are butchered during the event, the animal protection organization Humane Society International estimates — a fraction of the more than 10 million consumed each year in China.
Animal rights activists have typically attended the festival to purchase ill-fated dogs and save them from slaughter, said Qiao Wei, an activist from the Si Chuna Qiming Animal Protection Center.
But now they feel that working to establish a general ban on the dog meat trade would be much more effective.
“We have no hope that we can bring change just by going to Yulin,” he said. Simply buying dogs “doesn’t help.”
International animal rights groups concur, saying that focusing so intensively on dog meat consumption in just one city at an annual event risks becoming counterproductive.
“It would be far better to have a holistic campaign that works collaboratively across the country, engaging the government and public to acknowledge animals as our friends, not food,” said Jill Robinson, founder of the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation.
Chinese leader Mao Zedong had banned dog ownership for being bourgeois, but the ranks of China’s rising middle-class are now full of proud and loving dog owners.
This year, the foundation set up an online portal where Chinese citizens can report restaurants that operate illegally.
Tipsters have already flagged some 1,300 restaurants in 153 cities, with over 200 of them shut down, forced to stop selling the meat, or issued warnings, said Robinson.
Before the festival, animal protection groups from around the world submitted a letter with 235,000 signatures to Beijing, calling for the event’s abolishment.
The tide appears to be turning against dog meat consumption elsewhere in Asia, and Chinese animal lovers like Zhang Huahua, a 62-year-old retired lecturer-turned-activist, sense change is in the air.
Zhang came to Yulin all the way from her home in the southern province of Guangdong to submit a letter with recommendations to the local government.
Her hope is to save dog lives by changing the system itself.
In South Korea, where one million dogs are believed to be eaten annually, a court ruled that meat consumption was not legitimate grounds for killing canines, after an animal rights group accused a dog farm operator of slaughtering dogs “without proper reasons” and violating building and hygiene regulations.
Last April, Taiwan banned the consumption, purchase and possession of both dog and cat meat, with offenders facing a fine of up to Tw$250,000 ($8,170).
But many in Yulin viewed the news with a shrug.
“They can do what they want,” said a resident surnamed Huang, who nonetheless wasn’t fond of the taste of dog himself.